By Charles Cullen
A thought has been growing in my mind since roughly 1990, when I was pressed into service as a 9 year old canvasser for my first Democratic candidate. At some point during the stiflingly hot march from house to house I asked my fellow canvasser, and dad, a question having something to do with Georgia’s role in national Democratic politics (our race was local). His answer could best be summed up with the pragmatist’s slogan “act locally, dream nationally.” We can affect real change in Atlanta and maybe even make a few dents in the juggernaut that is the Georgia Republican party, or at very least make it a bit harder for them to deliver the state to people like Bush I, Bob Dole, and Bush Lite.
I have tempered my expectations for Georgia in national races by reminding myself “one must always remember that Atlanta is surrounded on all sides by Georgia.” But I’ve begun to wonder if recent demographic trends and political changes mean I’m throwing Georgia under the bus. Others, both at Blogging While Blue and elsewhere, have pointed to positive poll-shifts and the changing face of the average Georgian as possible harbingers of Democratic success. I would like to add one key demographic to the growing list of factors that may allow us to watch Georgia turn blue on CNN’s election night Holodeck.
The group I’m talking about is relatively new and growing fast. It’s somewhat socially liberal but considers itself “fiscally conservative.” It defies race (sort of), gender, age, and definitely economic status. It is a group that if captured by the Democratic party could turn Georgia as unflinchingly Blue as it has been Red. I’m talking of course about conservatives who no longer recognize their own party.
These newly exiled Republicans have been essential to every national Republican success. And there are more of them with every passing Republican super-gaffe. Were even a fraction to find refuge in the Democratic party the results would catastrophic for the GOP.
We tend to forget about these Republicans as, it appears, does the GOP, because newsreel, tri-cornered hat wearing Republicans are very, very loud and very, very noticeable. And because the truism, “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line” is still largely accurate. But make a Republican unhappy enough and they will begin eying bluer pastures. Perhaps the best thing about this bloc is that we don’t need to change to attract it, we need only engage it.
The GOP has done all the hard work for us by constricting their political tent with constant scandal and openly grotesque views on immigration, women, war, and the world in general. They have mutilated their own image so thoroughly that they’ve become unrecognizable to many of their constituents, and forgotten their governing responsibilities so completely that any time not spent attacking the President is spent bickering with each other. No time is spent trying to get anything substantive done.
In fact, the air around the republican brand is so poisonous that even Bob Dole feels left out, correctly telling ABC news’ Chris Wallace that politicians like Reagan—the Republican’s golden calf–would find themselves unwelcome in today’s obstructionist Republican party. “Reagan wouldn’t have made it,” Dole recently moped, adding “certainly, Nixon couldn’t have made it, because he had ideas.” He goes on to say that his team “might have made it, but I doubt it.” When Bob Dole feels alienated by the failure of his party to be sane or reasonable, you can bet that truly moderate voters feel his discomfort tenfold.
In the mountain of evidence, both empirical and anecdotal, that this really is an important group of voters to be courted as we turn Georgia blue, one conversation stands out for me. It perfectly crystallizes the feeling I’ve heard expressed by many who consider themselves Independents or Republicans without a true political home. The conversation was with a friend who is a self described fiscal conservative, and who respects “the value of smaller government.” “I’m not a Democrat,” my friend recently assured me, “but I can’t vote for a Republican.” And that’s a perfect starting point.
We don’t need these people to march in parades or make DNC plans. We just need them to act on their disappointment with Republican politics by voting for an alternative, or by simply refusing to vote for the Todd Akins, Steve Kings, and George Bushes of the world. They, in turn, don’t need us to offer them some kind of Republican Lite option to attract their support; they only need us to be reasonable and to avoid the lunatic behavior that has driven them away from the Republican camp.
That’s a pretty low bar, and clearing it could have a truly profound effect on Georgia politics for years to come.
Charles Cullen is a Blogging While Blue contributer and reguraly posts on ProgressivePopulist.blogspot.com